One tip that will Skyrocket your Analytics Career

 

I don’t use the word ‘Skyrocket’ lightly and yes this is not just a clickbait title. Though it is a clickbait title. I just admit it. The marketer inside me could not resist the temptation of using clickbait.

In the next few minutes, I will prove it to you how my one tip will completely change the way you do analysis for good.

Not only you will be doing more meaningful analysis going forward but you will also save countless working hours which can be used to do other important tasks like reading my blog : )

So what is my one tip?

Ask questions.

That’s it. These two words are the holy grail of digital analytics which nobody wants to tell you. It is so important. It is so precious.

This is my “one thing” that drives my analysis these days. I spend less time in finding answers on my own and more time asking questions. I help the clients find their own answers.

I ask questions, lot of questions, tons of questions.

“Every day is a question day.

Every question drives a follow up question. “

I ask questions to improve my understanding of the client’s business. I ask questions to understand his perspective. I ask questions to quickly deploy solutions. I ask questions to truly embrace Agile Analytics methodologies.

 “The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.” – Thomas Berger

It took me quite long to consciously realize the fact that business questions can never be answered as accurately by anyone other than the people who actually run the business.

That no amount of scanning GA reports, excel hacks, JavaScript and APIs wrestling, A/B testing can replace the understanding, my client has developed over the years by successfully running a profitable business.

That GA reports are the last thing I should be looking at and not the first.

That knowledge of internet marketing and industry best practices doesn’t automatically make me an expert in any industry I choose to work in.

That I must acknowledge the expertise of my client and come to terms with the fact that my knowledge of his business can not supersede his understanding of his own business.

That I am here to guide and not to dictate him how to run his business.

Once I changed my mindset, I experienced drastic improvement in my analysis and work life. I no longer need to live in a fear of ‘I need to be right’ or recommend something which ‘has’ to work.

I no longer need to spend countless hours going through the GA reports in a hope to find something which may need fixing because I know exactly what needs to be fixed.

I no longer need to chase KPIs because I solve for customers and not for KPIs.

I no longer need to rely just on my own understanding of the client’s business to produce recommendations.

I no longer need to assume that the problem I am fixing is the one that matters the most to the target audience of my client.

How I am able to do all that? …………I ask questions, lot of questions, tons of questions.

In Agile Analytics, success doesn’t come from the level of insight you get or the volume of tracking solutions you implement, but from your ability to ask questions which quickly solve your customer problems either wholly or in parts.

You need to keep asking questions until you reach the underlying source of the problem. Here is one real life example:

Client: “We need to increase our average order value. We want maximum number of people to buy both workshops and our mobile app.”

Me: “How much you charge for workshop and mobile app?”

Client: “We charge £140 for workshop and £5 for mobile app.”

Me: Do you think it is a good idea, if you charge £145 for your workshop and provide mobile app for free to people who attend workshop. In this way people who attend workshops get something for free (a small incentive to buy) and you are always guaranteed to sell mobile apps.

Client:  “Yes I think so. Thanks.”

This is real life example. I have not made it up.

There are few things worth pointing out here:

#1 At no point I used Google Analytics to fix the problem of increasing average order value. I could have used it but there was simply no need for it in this particular situation. So do I always need to use Google Analytics to fix customers problems. The answer is NO.

If I hadn’t asked this question, I would have dived into GA reports in a hope to find some answer and would probably be running a A/B test in a hope to increase average order value.

#2 At no point I dictated my client to do this or that. Even my solutions sound like a question. There is a good reason for that. I am not sure what I am proposing is going to work because my understanding of the client’s business is limited.

I am not sure whether the market is willing to pay £145 for my client’s workshop. So if later my recommendation doesn’t work for some reason, it won’t undermine my professional ability. It won’t make me look stupid.

#3 I subtly acknowledge the expertise of my client by asking for his approval on my proposal by saying: “Do you think it is a good idea?”

What marketers usually do when it comes to making recommendations, is say something like this “You need to do this”, “You need to do that”. “That’s how it works”, “It is industry best practice”, “because Matt Cutts said so”, “because Google said so”…….

When you say something like this to your client, you immediately take all the burden of proof. Now you have to be right or you risk undermining your professional abilities and skills.

You can never be so sure about someone else business. You don’t have hand on experience in dealing with your client’s business operations. You have no idea what is going on out there in their company. So you should not be 100% sure that what you are recommending is going to work.

 

Another real life example,

Client: “I want to increase signups on my website.”

Me: After scanning the website, “Why you are asking for credit card details for free trial?”

Client: “That’s the way it has been set up”.

Me: “What was your signup rate like when you removed credit card details requirement for free trial?”

Client: “We have never tested that? Let us test that”

Result: Client experienced a major lift in signups after removing the credit card details requirement.

There are few things worth pointing out here:

#1 Again at no point I used Google Analytics before making the recommendation. I could have used it but there was simply no need for it in this particular situation.

#2 At no point I dictated my client to do this or that in the name of industry best practices. I subtly made the recommendation, to test by asking a question.

#3 I made sure that I don’t sound like that my recommendation of conducting a test has to work. It has to increase signups. Test succeed and it can also fail to produce results. That’s why they are known as “tests”.

 

You have now realized it by now that asking question is an ‘Art’.

Asking questions is not simple. That’s why I didn’t title my post “one simple tip that will skyrocket your analytics career”. Because my tip though powerful is not simple to execute.

Many people don’t ask questions or ask enough questions because of the fear of being looking stupid in front of others and/or they just don’t want to bother their client/boss every day.

“Man, this guy ask lot of questions. Does he even know what he is doing. Doesn’t sound like an expert to me.”

I used to think like that. Asking too many questions will undermine my professional abilities and make me look clueless. I need to sound like an expert and command like an expert: “Do this or face the consequences”.

But that never really worked. I spend countless hour finding a problem which someone somewhere in my client’s company was already aware of.

What is the point of spending hours and days in digging out information/insight which is already known to someone in your organization?

Your time would be best spend finding answers to questions which no one can answer. 

Another interesting thing happened.

By asking questions, lot of questions, tons of questions, I was unknowingly showing a genuine interest in my clients’ business.

My clients were not getting annoyed as I thought. They in fact become super excited to learn more about their own business by answering to my questions. “oh we never though of that”, “that sounds like a good suggestion”….

And I also learned a lot by asking questions in this process.

Secondly, every time I asked questions, I was subtly acknowledging my client’s expertise which helped me in getting my recommendations implemented. Getting your recommendations implemented is the most important thing for a consultant. Recommendations are dime a dozen otherwise.

 

Here is how you can pull off my ‘ask questions’ strategy:

#1 Overcome your fear of asking questions

I won’t lie to you. It is not easy. But you need to find a way to overcome this fear in order to get extraordinary results from your analysis and work life.

 

#2 No question is a stupid question

There is no such thing as stupid question. Ask question even if your question has already been answered but you either wasn’t paying attention or you don’t quite get it.

 

#3 Ask questions whose answers seem pretty obvious

Ask even those questions which can be answered just by doing little research on your own. For example I often ask my clients, “where majority of your customers live?”

I can easily get an answer to this question by looking at the ‘location’ report in Google Analytics. But I still ask such questions for three main reasons:

1. I am not sure whether the Google Analytics report I am looking at is giving me any accurate insight. May be there is some data collection or data sampling issue which is skewing the analytics data.

2. I want to check the understanding of my client about his business. Often such question disclose a valuable insight. Entrepreneurs who are passionate about their business, usually know a lot about their target market. They often know much more than your GA reports can ever spill out.

3. I want to match the understanding of my client with the insight I am getting from Google Analytics. In this way I can quickly detect anomalies in data.

For example if my client is telling me that their top selling product is ‘XYZ’ and my GA ecommerce report is telling me that the top selling product is ‘PQR’ then the either my client is wrong or my GA data. In any case, I now need to do some detective work.

 

#4 Don’t try to figure out everything on your own

Not only it is a futile attempt but also not the best use of your precious time. Your time is best spent finding answers to the questions, no one has been able to answer so far. But for that you need to know first, which questions have already been answered.

 

#5 Acknowledge the expertise of your client by asking questions

We often take our clients for granted when it comes to deciding what is right and what is wrong for their business. They may not know the importance of title tags in search engine ranking. They may not be aware of landing page design best practices. But they do know how to run a business. Running an online store is not an easy job.

It may look easy but it is not. Try to sell something on ebay or amazon and you will get my point. Your client is more knowledgeable than you think and you need to acknowledge his expertise, take his input and take advantage of his industry experience in order to fuel your analysis and rapidly deploy solutions.

There is always someone somewhere standing, right under your nose waiting for you to ask a question and you are looking for the answers in analytics reports. Not good.

 

#6 Ask questions every day.

You are rewarding your client/boss poorly if you are not asking questions every single day.

Asking questions is a sign of intelligence. It is a sign of understanding. It is a sign of progress you are making in your analysis. If you don’t have any questions to ask then we have got a bigger problem here.

 

#7  Give answers that sound like questions

You can never be 100% sure that what you are recommending is going to work. So avoid communicating this message to your client by talking in absolutes or citing industry best practices or sound dead sure. You don’t need to sound like an expert or command like an expert.

You can always subtly make a recommendation by asking a question.  You just need to act as a guide and help your client in finding answers to his problems.

 

#8 Your client already know the answer, he is just unaware of it.

If you keep asking questions until you reach the underlying source of the problem, your client will at some point answer his own problem. Trust me on that. It works wonder.

If you are not getting an answer to a problem, you are not asking enough questions. 

 

#9  Raise objections by asking questions

If you think something is not right whether it is pricing, design element, landing page, campaign budget or targeting then ask ‘why’. Ask why it is the way it is?

You will often get useful insight from the client about why things are the way they are. Avoid jumping to conclusions and start making recommendations or start doing testing just because landing page is not following industry best practices.

 

#10 Ask follow up questions

The only way to truly benefit from my ‘ask questions’ strategy is by asking follow up questions. Every question you ask can/should help you in asking more questions so that you can quickly reach the underlying source of the problem.

 

#11 Make asking questions your daily habit

You need to make asking questions your daily habit. Otherwise you are most likely to forget my tip in few weeks.

Plan it out in advance what questions you will ask tomorrow. Write it down somewhere on your work desk, that you have to ask questions every day. Use this quote as a reminder and as a inspiration:

“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.”

Related Article: Analytics Career Advice from Top Industry Experts

Other article you will find useful: Guide to Cross device tracking with User Id in Google Analytics

Announcement about my books

Maths and Stats for Web Analytics and Conversion Optimization
This expert guide will teach you how to leverage the knowledge of maths and statistics in order to accurately interpret data and take actions, which can quickly improve the bottom-line of your online business.

Master the Essentials of Email Marketing Analytics
This book focuses solely on the ‘analytics’ that power your email marketing optimization program and will help you dramatically reduce your cost per acquisition and increase marketing ROI by tracking the performance of the various KPIs and metrics used for email marketing.

Attribution Modelling in Google Analytics and Beyond
Attribution modelling is the process of determining the most effective marketing channels for investment. This book has been written to help you implement attribution modelling. It will teach you how to leverage the knowledge of attribution modelling in order to allocate marketing budget and understand buying behaviour.

Himanshu Sharma

Certified web analyst and founder of OptimizeSmart.com

My name is Himanshu Sharma and I help businesses find and fix their Google Analytics and conversion issues. If you have any questions or comments please contact me.

  • Over eleven years' experience in SEO, PPC and web analytics
  • Google Analytics certified
  • Google AdWords certified
  • Nominated for Digital Analytics Association Award for Excellence
  • Bachelors degree in Internet Science
  • Founder of OptimizeSmart.com and EventEducation.com

I am also the author of three books:

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